Featured photo – Tara Moss signing copies of her book at North Sydney’s Stanton Library. All photos by Ben Apfelbaum.
Model, crime author and public speaker Tara Moss’ empowering and enlightening book SPEAKING OUT, aimed at inspiring girls and women, delivers on many levels. And it begs the question, why aren’t there more books written on this subject?!
In Moss’s forward she says, “Having a voice is part of what makes us human…Language connects us. Our voices connect us. When we are silent or unheard our ideals and perspectives, our needs, our pain and our struggles remain unknown or unacknowledged and for this reason unchanged.”
Moss continues with this line of thought- she “examines the challenges facing women and girls – the external obstacles of silencing, dismissals, bullying and threats of violence, and the internal challenges of crises of confidence…”
This beautifully presented book will be treasured by contemporary dance lovers. Wakefield Press yet again have brought us a stunning medium to large sized coffee table book, in this case the history of Australian Dance Theatre, informatively, eloquently written and with superb photos.
The publication features forwards by both the current Chairman Kim Boehm and Robyn Archer, an excellent index at the back is included, and there is also a handy listing of the various dancers who performed under each of the artistic directors. The writer, Maggy Tonkin, is a leading writer on dance who resides in Adelaide .
Considered radical, daring and new, Australian Dance Theatre (ADT) is Australia’s oldest continuously running contemporary dance company. Celebrating half a century of innovation in dance performance, FIFTY blends archival research, interviews and magnificent photos to take us from its founding by Elizabeth Cameron Dalman through to the exciting performances that are taking place nowunder the current Artistic Director Garry Stewart.
ADT’s tumultuous history is divided into seven chapters (each of the artistic directors reigns) with a striking portrait of each. The book fascinatingly follows the sometimes quite different paths ADT has taken under the successive artistic direction of Elizabeth Cameron Dalman, Jonathan Taylor, Lenny Westerdijk and Anthony Steel,Leigh Warren,Meryl Tankard, Bill Pengelly and Garry Stewart. Continue reading ‘FIFTY’ BY MAGGY TONKIN CHARTS THE HISTORY OF THE AUSTRALIAN DANCE THEATRE→
LONNIE’S LAMENT, the latest collection of poems by Ken Bolton, was recently published by Wakefield Press. Bolton has been a major figure in the Australian poetry and experimental writing scene for decades. Whilst he says that he writes ‘to keep awake, and amused’, this latest collection is yet another reminder of how wonderful a writer he is.
This rather small and slim book is in four sections. Most are new poems, some have been published in other collections before. They are incisively written often as stream of consciousness poems.
The pieces are lyrical, thoughtful, dreamily associative and easily distracting. Bolton reflects on life in ‘difficult times’ and tries to capture how recognize the feeling of changing from one era to another, describing it as being like, ‘a history of the vanishing present’. The poems explore how we define ourselves and how we think we are perceived by others.
There is a great use of the senses in his . Some of the poems are short – only a few lines – others are several pages in length. There are many references to other poets, art, artists, films and books. Bolton’s poems question the meaning and purpose of life and death.
Bolton’s poems with their loose rhythms and sudden shifts jump fluidly between Europe and Australia – mainly Sydney and Adelaide- and there is repeated mention of a favourite Greek restaurant Bolton used to frequent.
The book’s first section consists of three poems. The opening extended poem 2/12/08– A Poem for Philip Whalen meditates not just on Whalen and his work but on Bolton’s father’s World War 2 service. There are references to many artists including Grace Cossington-Smith, the Bauhaus, Rembrandt, Kirchner, and Apollinaire.
Life is a series of short couplets over several pages reflecting on the brevity of life, the passing of time and the passing of important loves in Bolton’s life.
The Funnies uses comics as a springboard for social comment and analysis.
The book’s second section is entitled September Poems and comprises thirteen poems. Poems range from The Palm , where the exploding burst of fronds and the Ent- like ‘ tree-ness’ of the palm is captured to The Blues which is a meditation on inspiration and travel. Geography is visually and aurally sharp and evocative.
Rooftop Apartment is written with a painter’s eyes and love of detail. West Hampstead captures the feelings brought up when Australians catch up far from home.
The third section consists of five poems. New Way of Worrying is a stream of consciousness poem – should he be worrying about Life? Old friends he hasn’t seen for ages? He observes other people and speculates about what they are worrying about.
It also captures other people he is observing and their possible worries.
Train Tripping has plenty of Australian references and is about eavesdropping on people’s conversations.
September Song is about the writing of a poem with dreams of giving a lecture on poetry.
What’s Best distills images of a flower and the moon. or is a streetlight?, interspersed with reflections on his partner Cath’s writing.
The final section – All New Tunes – opens with Spirits – which jumps between Sydney and Surfers Paradise and Bolton’s favourite Greek restaurant. Drink and the muse are invoked as are the spirits of old friends.
Maybe For You twists standard expectations of gender and identity and looks at ways of reading and comprehending a poem. There are also many musical references too.
30:11;12 concerns stylistic decisions in Adelaide and Fewer Pages is another exuberant yet thoughtful riff on reading, art and dogs.
You would be able to read this book in one sitting but my recommendation is to read/savour only a few poems at a time, and then have the pleasure of returning to the book at a later time and having another very enjoyable session.
This is a splendid, richly detailed biography of the iconic Australian artist Martin Sharp. He was the co-founder and principal cartoonist at Oz magazine, a song-writing partner to Eric Clapton, the producer of many famous pop, and much more.
Joyce Morgan, former Sydney Morning Herald arts editor and journalist, interviewed artist Martin Sharp frequently and intensively during the last decade of his life and unearthed a fascinating, complex man – from his involvement with Tiny Tim and Luna Park to Arthur Stace’s Eternity landmark scrawl, Picnic at Hanging Rock, and the Sydney Opera House.
It was more than a bit of a challenge when I was requested to write a review of a book written by an eminent and esteemed critic, academic, best selling author and a person who is the Sydney Morning Herald chief book reviewer. The gentleman is Andrew Riemer, the book Between The Fish and The Mudcake.
In his book, Riemer reminiscences about well known literary figures; there are food references and destinations mentioned. It is part memoir, history lesson, political piece, travelogue and social commentary.
Between the Fish and the Mudcake begins by discussing Patrick White whom he meets at a dinner party in Sydney in 1966 and who undergoes Riemer’s astute character observations and analysis of his personality. “We see him driven into precisely the taciturn hostility, thinly disguised beneath a veneer of politeness…” Continue reading ANDREW RIEMER : BETWEEN THE FISH AND THE MUDCAKE→
A dream house becomes a nightmare dwelling in J P Delaney’s uber impressive debut novel, THE GIRL BEFORE.
Stick Girl in the title these days and you’re assured a bestseller it seems, but THE GIRL BEFORE is bound to sweep away Gone, Girl and Girl on a Train on equal merit and not just marketing spin.
“Sometimes I have a sense that this house- our relationship in it, with it, with each other -is like a palimpsest or pentimento, that however much we try to over paint Emma Matthews, she keeps tiptoeing back: a faint image, an enigmatic smile, stealing its way into the corner of the frame.” Continue reading THE GIRL BEFORE : A DEBUT NOVEL BY J.P. DELANEY→
Any new experience can be a bit scary and there were a lot of reassured volunteers today when Misty, Sydney Writer’s Festival Volunteer Manager looked across the rows of eager newbies and said. “You will probably be petrified when you arrive at the Vollies Green Room for the first time. Don’t worry. We’ll spot you!” And that’s my takeaway from today’s Volunteer Orientation, we are in good hands.
Experience tells and as Misty and Ashleigh, the Volunteer Co-coordinator, warmly greeted the hundreds of volunteers as we queued for orientation, they knew our names and what we were slated for. Both the old hands like some of the people around me, and novices like myself and the new queue friend I had just made.
It looked like there were equal numbers of both as we did a show of hands for the more experienced and the excitable new ones. I sort of expected older people for reasons that don’t make any sense when I think about it. We are young and old, able bodied and differently abled. My new intergenerational friend is an aspiring writer and the couple near me voracious readers. And we all seem to be ‘volunteery’ type people. RFS, SES, Red Cross, working with youth, nursing home visitor we all seem to do something and so many people look forward to giving their time on the SWF each year.
Including our team supervisors. 28 of them with 130 combined Festivals between them. As badges were given for 5, 10 years volunteer service up to an impressive 13 years, I was getting that very calming ‘we’ve got you’ vibe. And the training only served to put me even further at ease. Emergency training, weather training, anecdotes to learn from and lots of thank yous and look after yourselfs. And being of a theatrical bent, I especially loved the variety of ways one of our trainers said nearly 30 times. “Don’t go in the water!” It’s not a thing apparently!
There is no secret to how to behave when you are a volunteer. We are united by a willingness and desire to help just as the SWF crowds are united in their love of ideas and their expression. Well behaved too we are told. Our team leaders have encountered most out of norm situations and as hundreds of us were ushered around the site by helpful, friendly, knowledgeable supervisors we got a real time, best practice demonstration.
There’s homework admittedly. We need to know where the toilets are about a thousand times a day. Know what events are on during your shift. Know where the venues are and know the map intimately. Questions continue all the way home on the train if you are still wearing your T-shirt and lanyard we are told.
I will be very excited to report on my first question… hope it’s not too pedestrian. Or too hairy. Either way I am ready to go. First stop: my local library for Sandra Leigh Price and The River Sings.
Sydney Writers Festival is 22-28th May
Youtube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCuCZP35tRLm6YfvB9HiS3Vg
iTunes Podcast: https://itunes.apple.com/au/podcast/sydney-writers-festival/id985898011?mt=2
Alyssa Palombo’s book THE MOST BEAUTIFUL WOMAN IN FRANCE strikingly captures the dangerous allure of the bond between artist and muse with delicacy, candour and unforgettable passion.
Palombo is also the author of The Violinist of Venice. She has published short fiction pieces in Black Lantern Magazine and The Great Lakes Review. A recent graduate of Canisius College she holds degrees in English and creative writing. A passionate music lover, she is a classically trained musician as well as a big fan of heavy metal. She currently resides in Buffalo, New York.
Divided into three sections, the book opens in Genoa where Simonetta Cattaneo was born and lived. She is believed to be the model for some of Sandro Botticelli’s finest paintings, including The Birth of Venus.
She was married to Marco Vespucci of Florence in 1469 at the age of sixteen and moved there upon her marriage. Even before her betrothal with Marco was official, Simonetta was drawn into Lorenzo and Giuliano de’ Medici’s glittering circle of politicians, poets, artists, and philosophers.
The men of Florence―most notably the rakish, rather sinister Giuliano de’ Medici―become enthralled with her beauty. That she is educated and an ardent reader of poetry makes her even more desirable and fashionable …
Florence, however, does not really agree with Simonetta as she eventually keeps on becoming ill. She suffers from recurring mysterious fevers – it turns out Simonetta unknowingly developed TB.
The book follows Simonetta’s tragically short life as she is wooed by the promise of life in artistic, learned Florence, befriended by the mighty Medici family and then moves in the top echelons of Florentine society, what we would now call the A-list, and is given the mixed blessing of being declared the most beautiful woman in Florence.
Simonetta’s unhappy marriage to Marco is well described. The developments of art, music and culture are also mentioned – Donatello’s David , the works of Fra Filip Lippi the amazing dome at the cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, as designed by Brunelleschi.
Simonetta’s story is a poignantly sad one, but also strikingly feminist as she fights to be acknowledged for her sharp mind and education (she is bookish and intelligent with a very inquiring mind) and scorns the attention paid to her because of her astonishing good looks. It is Botticelli who sees past her looks to the curious and thoughtful woman within, and through that relationship with him she is immortalised in some of the most treasured works of the Renaissance .
Breaking all convention, Simonetta agrees to pose for Botticelli leading to the creation of his famous The Birth of Venus. Do the two become lovers? Or is it a chaste affair following the rules of courtly love of the time?
You will have to read the book to find out. Boticelli asked to be buried at Simonetta Vespucci’s feet, in the Chiesa di San Salvatore di Ognissanti, where he remains to this day, makes this an even more seductive love story.
Though little is known of her real life, this story gathers what facts do exist to build a lyrical , fascinating and compelling narrative that is not just a love story. This is an enchanting book that captivates and makes you want to dash to the Uffizzi Gallery. IBSN: 9781925481167
Format: Trade Paperback Pub Date: 26/04/2017
Category: Fiction & related items / Historical romance
Fiction & related items / Historical fiction
If the act of reading is necessarily a quiet, solitary activity the opposite can be true of when we share or discuss what we read. This dynamic communality is what draws me every year to the Sydney Writer’s Festival.
Some of the best conversations I have ever had about writing, the perception of writing, even the act of writing have been in queues on cool May afternoons as I wait gratefully to attend an SWF event. Strangers with whom I might disagree, agree, agree to disagree or simply be excited with.
And it appears that I am not the only one who acknowledges the pleasure of choosing from over 300 events each year. Today I did my first shift as an SWF volunteer. One of the hundreds of people who put up their hands to make this iconic Sydney event run smoothly for the solitary love of reading and the vibrant sharing of what we read. Continue reading Diary of a Volunteer: Sydney Writers Festival 2017→
Just finished reading WORKING CLASS BOY the first instalment of the story of James Dixon Swan, aka – Jimmy Barnes. As usual I am about six months behind the times, the book was published to much fanfare last year, ironically when Barnsey was doing publicity for the book at various venues in Sydney I was in Glasgow. In a pub, about ten minutes from Cowcaddens, the rough area that Barnes lived in until the age of five. That’s just how life is sometimes, but back to the real story.
Barnes’ home life in both Glasgow and Elizabeth, SA (where he spent most of his youth) was shambolic, the family lived in poverty and violence was commonplace. The stories he tells make your hair stand on end, the two bottles of vodka a day that became a regular feature of his later life start making sense. His substance abuse was not the usual garden variety abuse of the ‘sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll crowd. Barnes was in need of more anesthetizing, to banish the memories of his troubled upbringing. Yet he tells it with such candour and humour that the reader is drawn in to the grey streets of Glasgow and South Australia willingly and we are happy to take the journey with him, and to some pretty dark places.Continue reading WORKING CLASS BOY : THE EARLY LIFE OF JIMMY BARNES→
There’s no disputing the good writing and deserved bestsellerdom of books like Gone, Girl and Girl on a Train, just as there is no disputing the good writing and deserved bestsellerdom of Australian fiction that conjures comparison with these international blockbusters.
I recently waxed lyrical over Emily McGuire’s An Isolated Incident (run the search on this site), and I unequivocally wax the same lyricism for Jane Jago’s THE WRONG HAND.
Featured image – talented, versatile author Mick Herron.
In prose and dialogue drier than a perfect Martini, SPOOK STREET may have a double O in its title but its tone is more Le Carre and Deighton than Fleming, although there’s the odd nod to Bond, in a sly “What would James do?” way.
These spooks are not strictly MI 5 or MI 6, this bunch is MI sfits and MI istakes.
“Slough House was a branch of the service, certainly, but ‘arm’ was pitching it strong. As was ‘finger’, come to that; fingers could be on the button or the pulse. Fingernails, now; those, you clipped, discarded, and never wanted to see again.”
There is nothing that quite matches the feeling of elation that arises after one has published one’s first novel. Especially when the book has been some twenty four years in the making.
It was over two decades ago that Kathryn Berryman read The Book Of Kells at the Trinity College Library in Dublin. The sweeping nature and wonder of the book has always stayed with her, and it stirred within her the wish to create her own work of fantasy.
I AM BRIAN WILSON is a rather long and vague postscript to Love and Mercy, the 2014 film that tracks the famous Beach Boy’s mental illness from its onset in the mid 60s to the 80s, whilst he was in the care of the famously negligent Dr Eugene Landy.
Wilson’s sometimes prolific drinking and drug-taking was replaced under Landy’s regime with a steady diet of prescription medication which led to chronic apathy borne out of surrendering his will to that of the controlling doctor. Wilson eventually escaped the treacherous relationship with Landy with the help of second wife Marilyn. The film Love and Mercy is really an ode to their love.
Unofficial and unauthorised, Ian Nathan’s TIM BURTON: The Iconic Film Maker and His Work is a handsome and illustriously illustrated study of the creator of Frankenweenie and Edward Scissorhands, to name just two iconic characters conjured by one of the most curious movie directors in contemporary cinema.
In his introduction, Nathan writes that, partly, the endeavour of the book is to describe the advent of the adjective Burtonesque. “If you use the word Burtonesque any film fan will know exactly what you are saying.”
Undeniably, there is a distinctive look to Tim Burton’s films, and like all great cineasts, image takes primary over narrative. Ian Nathan has had the great good sense of papering this book with images, and let his subject do the heavy lifting, sometimes in his own words, sometimes by his colleagues and collaborators. Continue reading ‘TIM BURTON: THE ICONIC FILM MAKER AND HIS WORK’ BY IAN NATHAN→
How we come in, how we go out, sex and death; these are the governing drives, our two greatest themes. Humid embrace, cold sweat.
In the vigour to mortis anthology, SEX & DEATH, edited by Sarah Hall and Peter Hobbs, twenty splendid stories that excoriate and excruciate the extremes of the exquisite remind us of what we already know – intuitive muscle memory – but can’t quite reconcile; the cognitive dissonance of living and dying and the attempts at loving in between. Continue reading SEX AND DEATH STORIES : SOME NOT SO LIGHT HOLIDAY READING→
Peter Corris’ latest Cliff Hardy, WIN, LOSE OR DRAW is the last Cliff Hardy.
This amounts to a win, lose and draw situation for the legion of Cliff Hardy fans.
It’s a win because it’s a neat, clean, shaved and sober story, and Corris doesn’t care who knows it. Like Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep, WIN, LOSE OR DRAW begins with Cliff Hardy being hired by a lucre lousy dad, Gerard Fonteyn, to investigate the disappearance of his daughter, Juliana, a statuesque fourteen year old vanished from their Vaucluse waterfront last December. Continue reading PETER CORRIS FAREWELLS CLIFF HARDY WITH ‘WIN, LOSE OR DRAW’→
Part memoir, part acting manual, Bryan Cranston’s A LIFE IN PARTS is a six decade odyssey through a life that has seen him play many parts on the great stage of life.
Seemingly, Cranston had little chance of avoiding being bitten by the acting bug as, “My parents met like most people do; in an acting class in Hollywood.”, but a seminal event in his childhood almost robbed us of this thrilling thespian, a mortification during a school play.
Saying so long to to the stage, Cranston embarked on a series of employment adventures that included farmhand, beast feeder, house painter, security guard and marriage celebrant. He also embarked on a motorcycle saga with his brother Ed.
“With the Steppenwolf road anthem ‘Born to be Wild’ playing in our heads, we blasted out of California on motorcycles for parts unknown. Duration unknown. Everything was unknown.” Continue reading BRYAN CRANSTON’S MEMOIR : ‘A LIFE IN PARTS’→
Featured image – Fish ForThe Fight (1993) by Catherine Truman.
‘Catherine Truman is medium agnostic. Although she is enduringly fond of intricately carving English lime wood, her oeuvre extends into contemporary jewellery, objects, performance, choreography, public sculpture, installation, photography & moving image. She is a holistic maker – acutely aware of her process, while continually evolving her inquiry. Truman’s curiosity takes her & her makings into the anatomically unfamiliar – probing thresholds of human ‘being’.’
Melinda Rackham 2015.
Treat yourself – grab this stunning book , beautifully brought to us by Wakefield Press . This publication is a visual feast, drawing on Rackham’s generous conversations with Truman and her extensive research into her archives, photographs, process documentation, journals, hard-drives and drawings. The book has been illustrated with ravishing, enticing images, predominantly by Grant Hancock. ( This book should receive awards for the photos alone, and Rackham’s insightful writing is thoughtful, clear and concise).
This publication made me want to book a plane trip to Adelaide straight away and run to the Gray Street Workshop.
Catherine Truman is an established contemporary jeweller and object-maker whose works blur the disciplines of art and science. She is co-founder and current partner of the Gray Street Workshop – an internationally renowned artist-run workshop established in 1985 in Adelaide, South Australia, where she currently works and lives. Continue reading CATHERINE TRUMAN: TOUCHING DISTANCE→
The statistics are alarming; a note from the editor of Bully For Them – Fiona Scott-Norman who also suffered torment at school that, ‘’one in four students is affected by bullying.’’
At school it really is a case of survival of the fittest Bullying can break one’s spirit and leave one scarred for life. It might take years for the damage to one’s self esteem to be reversed. Bullying can cause a severe case of loneliness and lead to depression. It can be hard to forgive them for the anguish that they’ve caused. Many people have difficult home lives but that doesn’t mean they become bullies.
Eastern Sydney’s very active Waverley Library recently featured an impressive double header.
Upstairs, in the theatrette, Jennifer H Crane spoke about her book Our Lady Of The Fence Post.
In June 2003 an apparition of the Virgin Mary appeared at the headland south of Coogee Beach. No fewer than three academic papers have delved into the apparition. Two of them found a link between the sighting of the Virgin Mary and the death of a number of local rugby players at the Sari Club in Bali which was bombed in October 2002. Unfortunately, shortly after the sighting, the fence at Dolphin’s Reserve was vandalised and the apparition was no more. Continue reading WAVERLEY LIBRARY LITERARY DOUBLE HEADER→
Exquisitely, beautifully illustrated this is a large coffee table book, a fascinating visual feast . It is linked in with the first major exhibition of the artist’s work in Australia which has just finished at Carrick Hill in Adelaide .It follows the story of Stanley Spencer’s various muses and the subjects that made him one of the greatest forces in British painting.
Stanley Spencer (1891-1959) is regarded as one of Britain’s most significant twentieth-century painters. Shortly after studying at the Slade School of Art, Spencer became well known for his paintings depicting Biblical scenes occurring as if in Cookham, the small village beside the River Thames where he was born and spent much of his life. Continue reading STANLEY SPENCER – A TWENTIETH CENTURY BRITISH MASTER→
Pay attention, 007! Bloomsbury have published your creator’s letters.
Letters? You must be joking.
I never joke about his work, 007.
Emails, texts, tweets?
No, 007, letters, fully fledged, beautifully written correspondence with publishers, proof readers, and his public, with you as the principle subject.
I’m flattered. What’s it called?
THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN TYPEWRITER. It contains a selection of letters that charts the progress of his literary career from a January holiday in Jamaica to a September memorial service in London, spanning a dozen years.
This opusculum, to use one of Fleming’s favourite words, has been arranged in seventeen chapters covering your published case files.
Opusculum? Sounds like a SPECTRE torture chamber.
It actually means a small or minor literary work. Each of these letters is indeed a literary work, full of candour, style, and flourish that has sustained his reputation and popularity.
Evocative of Raymond Chandler in title THE WRONG SIDE OF GOODBYE, Michael Connelly’s latest Harry Bosch title also channels Chandler in tone with a per fine ounce of a dotty, near dead, industrialist’s issue with his issue.
THE WRONG SIDE OF GOODBYE is a two tiered intriguer that has Harry Bosch working two cases, one officially sanctioned by the San Fernando Police Department involving a serial rapist dubbed The Screen Cutter, the other a private investigation for ailing aviation billionaire, Whitney Vance.
In a prologue – that’s book talk for a pre title sequence – a US Army helicopter made by the Vance company is shot down over Vietnam half a century ago. That short sequence resonates throughout the novel, until it neatly dovetails into the book’s end. Continue reading MICHAEL CONNELLY : THE WRONG SIDE OF GOODBYE→